Great Lakes, Great Stuff

OFFERING HANDMADE, quality goods with a distinct cottage feel, Great Lakes Reclaimed — the Petoskey-based business of Jim and Lisa Millen — is all about the lake life.

Ironically, the company began far from any Michigan waters. It was 2012, and the Millens were living in Colorado. Looking to fill some downtime from his job working with a local solar company, Jim — a finish carpenter trained in Lancaster, Pa. — decided to build a craft beer tote.

Not long after, “we put it up on Etsy and it sold the first day,” says Lisa, a northern Michigan native who has painted and refurbished antiques for more than 25 years. Orders continued to file in, so the couple added new products and variations.

Then, in 2014, with business booming more than ever, Jim and Lisa, who “tremendously missed the close proximity to the water,” relocated their home and workshop to Petoskey. Growing up around the shores, Lisa counts cherished memories spent in lakeside cottages as the inspiration behind their brand. “All the senses are affected when you live by a lake.”

This lake effect can be felt in each design: in the pastel paint accenting a popular whitewashed Michigan plaque, and especially in their colorful, striped sailboat décor.

COLORS OF THE COAST Practical wine racks, rustic sailboat décor, and charming bottle openers all are beach-house perfect. ”In my family, we always had a cottage on the lake,” says Lisa Millen. Now based in Petoskey, she and her husband capture, through their work, the easygoing lake life they missed when living out West. The vintage bottle openers, for example, are painted in an assortment of pastel shades that reflect coastal living. 

As of lately the Millens have expanded into the commercial arena, crafting everything from reclaimed restaurant tables to office desks and, most recently, custom beer sample carriers, custom signage, and a large harvest tasting-room table for nearby Rudbeckia Winery and Burnt Marshmallow Brewing. They are also re-doing all of the tables in The Paper Station Bistro in Harbor Springs. “We’re making 14 tabletops out of reclaimed barn wood from the area to replace all of their formica tables,” Lisa says.

Their best seller continues to be the aforementioned harvest tables, crafted of wood salvaged from a 125-year-old barn in Harbor Springs. Lisa attributes the tables’ success to the wood’s rich character and its customizable size.

While reclaimed wood isn’t suitable for all projects, the couple loves using it whenever possible. Whether it comes from fencing or even pallets, Lisa says, “If it’s in good shape and it’s being discarded and not used, we’ll take it and find a use for it. All that stuff ends up in landfills, so why not use it?” — GN